Emily’s Story: Innovative Implant Banishes Pain

P-W-ORT02781-WilburEmily Wilber clearly remembers the day she had to give up the job she loved so much. She seriously injured her back while lifting a patient during her job as a first responder on an emergency medical services (EMS) team in Columbus, Ohio. “I knew right away that I had dislocated my sacroiliac joint,” she says. But a trip to the emergency room and dozens of other efforts failed to relieve her excruciating back pain.

“Over the course of five years I saw 10 physicians, yet the pain was still unbearable,” she remembers. Injections, ablations, physical therapy, and powerful painkillers all were attempted, but they did not resolve her pain. Often bedridden, it was impossible for Emily to return to her EMS job. Even sitting at a desk wasn’t possible on most days, she says. “I was completely hopeless.”

Emily’s relentless attempts to find relief led her to a conversation with someone affiliated with Premier Health, and within days she was speaking with Premier Orthopedics surgeon Michael Prayson, MD.

When the sacroiliac (SI) joint is injured, it can cause an ongoing instability that is naturally painful, Dr. Prayson explains. The condition is frequently missed or misdiagnosed, he says, and treatment aimed at the lower spine will not resolve the problem.

Emily needed her joint stabilized via fusion, says Dr. Prayson. “This procedure eliminates the excessive motion that causes pain,” he says, “and in Emily’s case, I recommended a relatively new device called iFuse Implant.” The iFuse Implant is specifically made to repair dislocated SI joints. “It not only stabilizes the joint, but also provides for bone to grow across the joint, which helps with long-term pain relief,” Dr. Prayson explains. Through her persistent research, Emily had already learned about the iFuse Implant and quickly agreed to having the procedure at Miami Valley Hospital.

A month later, Emily was off pain medications for the first time in more than five years. With the help of a walker and then a cane, she learned what it was like to walk again without hurting. “I started walking a lot rather quickly because I felt so good,” she laughs. Within months, scans clearly showed that Emily had bone growth within the implant’s titanium hollow rods, an indication of the procedure’s success.

Because Emily periodically photographs events for Troy Christian Schools, she recently asked Stacey Barnhart, Premier Health athletic trainer at Troy Christian,  to recommend exercises she could do at home to stretch her muscles and keep them limber. “I do them two to three times a day. Some of these stretches I’ve not been able to do for over five years. But now that my SI joint is stable I can do so much more,” says Emily. “It really has made a difference!”

Today Emily is happy to report her energy is restored and she is looking to return to the work she loves as a 911 dispatcher. “I finally have a purpose again,” she says with a smile.